Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive Podcast: Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

"Fail to plan - plan to fail" - our soothsayer (aka Gary) tells it like it really is with migration. What are the trip hazards, what to pay attention to when planning one and where the lessons we've learned over 25 years come into play for SMBs.

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Episode transcript:

Intro (00:05):

Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive podcast, Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

Charlotte (00:26):

Welcome to the latest ProActive podcast. Today continuing the alliteration, we're going to be myth busting migration, which is quite a topic. And today, I'm here with Gary, who is a solutions consultant at ProActive. So before we get started, Gary, do you want to do a quick intro?

Gary (00:44):

Yeah, absolutely. So my role as a solutions consultant is to make sure that the systems and solutions that we're designing meet all the business needs and add real value back into the organizations that we're working with.

Charlotte (00:59):

Great. Keeps you busy, I'm sure.

Gary (01:00):

Certainly does.

Charlotte (01:02):

So as I said, we're going to be talking about migration today, one of the major IT housekeeping tasks, which I think is often underestimated in terms of its scale and impact. So speaking to that point, what is it typically that people forget to think about with migration? Do they even think of migration when they're considering moving to a cloud strategy or digitizing processes? Is it something that often gets forgotten?

Gary (01:30):

It's so all encompassing as a topic. So I think where there is a gap in people's current thoughts is that when you consider migration, ask anybody, they're instantly going to tell you it's about the data. Now, what tends to get missed and is particularly pertinent within migration from, say, an on-premise solution to a cloud solution is the application itself, both in its requirements from a performance and environmental perspective, but also, how do you shift that workload without having an overall impact on your employee's productivity and your business productivity or even your customer's productivity? So I think some good things to bear in mind, and certainly things that I've seen in the last few months, are latency requirements. So a lot of older applications weren't designed to run in the cloud, which can have a bit of an overhead on top of them. So it's always worth, and one of the things that we recommend all of our clients do here, is a period of scoping and user acceptance testing on our platforms.


You need to know that when you flick the switch on a recently migrated platform, that the experience for customers, users, or whoever that may be, is comparable or better to the one that they were having previously, otherwise, why are you undertaking that particular activity? But I think it extends beyond people's typical understanding of what migration is and the reasons for driving it. I think if you were to ask most IT managers what they think of when they think of migration, predominantly, it's going to be moving from one provider of services to another or from one location to another, but there's a hidden element in that and that comes from upgrading versions, supporting platform version. So that, in and of itself, can be a migration. In particular, if, like most SMEs, your focus isn't on the technology itself, rather the items that that technology is enabling you to deliver, versions tend to get forgotten about.


And it's a thing that I see time and time again, where an organization, and rightly so, is focusing on what their application does. And then for whatever reason, whether that's end of life hardware, whether it's end of life software versions, this upgrade path or upgrade migration, I think, is probably a better term, comes with a hard deadline at a time that's chosen by the vendor or whatever that is. So a lot of organizations need to keep these upgrades in mind and treat an upgrade as a migration. How are you going to move to the latest secure version of a given application or dependency without causing interruption? How are you going to resource for that? So it's beyond that whole moving from on-prem to cloud or moving from cloud provider X to cloud provider Y.

Charlotte (04:51):

So have you seen projects become derailed because either an application was forgotten about, because often there's stuff powering, stuff on black boxes, that people have forgotten about because they didn't think of those upgrade paths that are required to operate in the cloud, for example?

Gary (05:09):

Unfortunately and fortunately, on a daily basis, and to think one of the really strong points that Fasthosts, ProActive, offer is the potential to gain insights to some of those blockers before you're at a point where the blocker is an issue or a major problem. Nobody makes a decision negligently, right? We're talking small business owners who, the reality is this is their bread and butter, this is their lifeblood, their revenue. Nobody deliberately omits something which they think might cause them a problem just for fun. So quite often, what we see are unexpected, unknown issues that probably couldn't have been foreseen without actually attempting to do the migration, cropping up during actual migrations. And again, this is why we really stress to people that that user acceptance and scoping part of the process that we try to go through with all of our clients is absolutely core to making any migration or upgrade as seamless as possible.

Charlotte (06:30):

So it's the old adage, failed to plan, plan to fail.

Gary (06:33):


Charlotte (06:33):

Okay. So do you often see challenges where, and I know this happens a lot in large organizations and I'm assuming it happens just as much in smaller organizations, where the business side of the business that is, like you say, focused on the customer experience, the employee experience, embark on these projects, but often don't, not deliberately, but just don't realize the impact that it's going to have on the IT manager who's suddenly given this task to make happen and some of the obstacles that are going to be in their way.

Gary (07:09):

Yeah. Of course. Big or small, organizations resource for their standard operating model. And so, any kind of deviation from that standard operating model will have a resource impact on people. I think it can be more prevalent in smaller organizations where there isn't always a huge project portfolio that you can prioritize and move resource from one thing to another, you generally have a finite resource that predominantly is focused on operations. And so, when it comes to doing these extracurricular type activities, there is nowhere to take that resource from without having a detrimental, or potentially detrimental, impact on day-to-day business operations, and that's where we come in because we can help provide those resources, we can add our wealth of experience. We have migrated platforms on a colossal scale. We are talking thousands upon thousands of application instances, businesses, et cetera, over the years.


We've had to go through those migrations and we've learned, sometimes the hard way, where those pitfalls lie, and so we can bring that to the table. Again, we can support those kind of activities from both a physical, "Here's some resource to do some testing," To a advisory service where we can say, "Look, in our experience, we've had to do this exact same thing and these are the areas that caught us or caused us particular headaches."

Charlotte (09:05):

So a real sort of support for the IT manager to help guide them through what challenges they're likely to encounter.

Gary (09:14):

Absolutely. Yeah.

Charlotte (09:17):

So obviously there's been a big shift over the last few years from on-premise to cloud and I think most organizations are probably going to end up somewhere in the middle with a hybrid model, and are there particular things where you would recommend that they don't migrate? Is there a strategy around, okay, if you're considering digitization and moving to the cloud, what would you leave alone?

Gary (09:53):

I mean, it's a really broad topic, but I think as I mentioned previously, there are certain application models that don't work terribly well in the cloud, certainly with legacy type applications that are designed purely for internal business use, sometimes they don't play well on cloud platforms. I think there's another element to this as well when it comes to migration, which a lot of organizations, again, kind of miss, is that there are certain applications and certain offerings from both on-premise and software as a service provider offerings, which mean you can't migrate applications, you are invested in a particular infrastructure or eco-structure, that means that's where you need to remain. And again, I think there is a lesson there around when organizations are looking at solutions, one of the areas they really need to consider is that portability. What happens if? What happens if the supplier customer relationship degrades to a point where they want to move? What if one vendor's application or offering doesn't fit well with another core set of business needs? And sometimes you can be so embedded within one particular provider's offering that you have no migration path away from that offering.


So again, always worth bearing in mind when looking at SaaS solutions, when looking at cloud offerings is… is there anything there that has the potential to keep you locked into that platform and take away that ability to make decisions based on multiple providers?

Charlotte (11:49):

Yeah, that's a good point, isn't it? And I guess at ProActive, that's something you could really help them with, is to see what's out there, if they are trapped in that scenario, and then how can they migrate away from it, not through it.

Gary (12:01):

Absolutely. And certainly, that's one of the things that we bear in mind with all of the solutions that we create and the platform architecture as a whole, is that we want to keep people with ProActive because they're happy with the service, not because they need feature X, that we're the only people that offer. And again, I'm looking at probably the major hyper-scalers here.

Charlotte (12:28):


Gary (12:28):

All of the stuff that we design could be lifted and shifted to, A, another platform. We don't use anything that's proprietary. As I say, we're not locking people in because of features, we're wanting people to stay because of what we do for them.

Charlotte (12:44):

Yeah. Exactly. Well, we all know good service makes a big, big difference to this...

Gary (12:49):

It's the big differentiator, right?

Charlotte (12:51):

Yeah, for sure. So just to finish up, we always like to finish on what's next, what's coming, what do you think are the big trends that are going to be impacting or driving migration?

Gary (13:03):

So I think one of the things that is potentially going to drive people to look at migration type activities are multi-cloud. People are looking at minimizing, how can they minimize risk by putting all their eggs in one basket? And a lot of organizations within their business continuity plans are using the offerings of multiple providers and that then can become a challenge because of interoperability between platforms. So I think that, as a topic, we are going to see more and more and more and it's going to come down to us and other cloud providers designing solutions that play well with other people's toys because if we don't have that, we are going to be at a disadvantage.

Charlotte (13:55):

Yeah, definitely. Well, thanks Gary. That's been really interesting and I believe you're on the next episode too, which is talking about resource optimization, so we've got...

Gary (14:05):


Charlotte (14:05):

Got that to look forward to too. Well, thanks for your time.

Gary (14:08):

Thank you.

Charlotte (14:08):

And we'll speak to you soon.

Gary (14:08):

Take care.

Charlotte (14:08):


Outro (14:10):

Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode. You can subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcast or visit proactive.fasthosts.co.uk for more info. See you next time.

Orlaith Palmer

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